Trial and terror
President Donald Trump has used the threat of foreign-born terrorists to justify his travel ban – but since 9/11, nearly every terrorist attack in the United States has come from within. On this episode of Reveal, we investigate which domestic terror episodes get tracked and why.
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from the Center for investigative reporting in PR X This is revealed now let's remember this thing from Donald Trump's campaign radical Islamic terrorists as president it's also his justification to ban people from six majority Muslim countries according to data provided by the Department of Justice is the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorists and terrorism offense since nine eleven came here from outside of our country there's one problem with this statement is just jaw dropping the astonishingly wrong that's David and I were a reporter at the nonprofit news investigative Fund the vast vast majority of terrorism States are committed by American citizens like Obama team shooting up in Orlando in the name of ISIS Dylan roof killing black churchgoers in South Carolina to start a race Jimmy Christian stabbing good Samaritans on Portland light rail train last month but also many totally ignore cyst and eleven virtually every terrorist attack in the United States has been cooked up in the United States since two thousand and eight David and his team at the investigative Fund have been keeping track of these domestic terror incidents there were sixty three cases with tears claimed he acted in the name of Islam in the same period we have merrily hundred and twenty cases of right wing extremist terrorism we should know though right wing terrorism has killed slightly fewer people overall and here's how many acts of terrorism were committed by people born in the country's president Trump wants to ban three that's three out of two hundred and one that Robin illustration points to one of those three to make a case for the travel involved a Somali refugee who came here when he's three years old reveals Stan Alcorn has been looking into that incident from two thousand and ten he joins me now stand by our soul laid out for me what happened well in downtown Portland Oregon a few stops from last month's train stabbing there's this plaza in front of the courthouse and every year the day after Thanksgiving the house this holiday celebration the that was me back in twenty he was on stage as Santa Claus comes out and they start counting with this oversized turn on lights on the seventy five foot Christmas and then I tree lights the everybody starts singing White Christmas The but after that Sam Adams gets into his car and gets a text from his Call me to police officials briefed on what's about to be national news now to a terror plot stopped its tracks FBI agents say a Somali born U S citizen was arrested Friday night after attempting to blow up a bomb in Portland Oregon during the city's Christmas tree lighting ceremony investigators fear that this had been months even perhaps years that team telling police that he chose Portland as his intended target because quote its organ and thinks about it it sounds like really close call yeah at first it really did but then more of the facts came out here Sam Adams again there is a lot of soda clouds around this particular case yeah well and I guess I wonder as the person who is responsible for the city of Portland to think that this case made the people of Portland safer I'm not entirely certain why would he say that the FBI stopped a terrorist plot before it happened so I mean it sounds like the definition of making people safer yeah if they're really stopping a terrorist plot but what if the FBI was creating the plot and the terrorists creating how well so if you go back to a year before the Christmas tree lighting the teenager they arrested was a freshman at Oregon State University his name is Mohamed Osman Mahmud I talked one of his friends there my name is the lesser writing there and I was roommates with Mohammad in college for about a year and Alyssa says freshman year that room was supposed to be for three people but this overlapping group of best friends and boyfriends and girlfriends are often six yeah so we had and two Indians and a gentleness EU is Korean and someone from El Salvador who is Catholic myself a white Christian and then Mohamed Mohamed was a tall skinny kid who elicits as was the life of the party at frat parties football games we just had a blast together and I even got each other's classes sometimes are that close but just for you to sit through a math class just absolutely yes the thing is mostly English because those are a little bit easier but yet all this the FBI was seen two agents were videotaping in the cafeteria they were reading his emails and text messages Lila why were they doing all that I mean he just sells like the typical college kid essentially it's because of what he did on the Internet in high school what happened was when I was fifteen mommy went through with his dad called an identity crisis his parents were splitting up and he started going to a more conservative mosque and got into what you might call the jihad the Internet that's where he met the guy who started this magazine called Jihad recollections actually have a copy of it and if you flip to want to say it's like page twenty two I think you'll find his at his article A D when I read the title of an A getting in shape without weights and has a picture of the three guys looks like the practicing karate yourself building in lakes is the most important part of your body to prepare for jihad it almost seems like something you'd read in The onion I mean really it does like it's a workout for terrorists have been thinking of it as a plot is for jihadis yeah I get is the lies with Heidi's I should say though Muhammad wrote more serious articles to the instance he wrote about why Europe is a more deserving target for attacks in the United States now by the time we got to college he'd stop trading for Jihad recollections but the government said these articles were one he was targeted they're worried it was more than just words that he was waiting to take action and this is really the question at the heart of this case how do you distinguish someone who's all talk from someone who's waiting to act so one clue to some law enforcement career coach there was understanding that it's very easy to get weapons in this country that's Mike Sherman he's a former FBI agent who investigated and infiltrated domestic terrorist groups and he says there are hundreds of thousands of people were talking about doing horrible things if you want to find them you can just visit an internet message board but if you want to stop a bomb plot he says need to look for people who are trying to build bombs it's very easy to obtain firearms it's very easy to manufacture small explosives these are activities that involve a lot of training were a lot of resources so this person can be very dangerous if they've never actually attempted to obtain weapons on their own or engage in a pot under the IT in Muhammad's case not only did the FBI find no evidence of him trying to buy weapons are engaged in a terrorist plot emails and trial testimony agency said Mohammad seem to have left behind his radical thinking this Psalm as a manipulative conflicted kit but they still decided to test it first with emails from a fictional Muslim guy in Idaho asking how to help with the occupiers from Palestine and then when Mom it didn't take that made the FBI did something more drastic they intervened in his real life when did you notice something changed and it was probably towards the end of our freshman year that Alyssa again her boyfriend the Catholic Salvadoran roommate was Mama's best friend and he arranged for Muhammad to come with him to Alaska for the summer to work in a Cannery or on a fishing boat he was poor so he was really excited to be able to struggle so much but then he got to the airport he was all packed and I understand he just couldn't go home it had been placed on the no fly list so instead of making money in Alaska with his best friend he was left behind in Portland where the FBI would contact him again the family to call my brother Mohammed Yousef Yousuf is an FBI agent posing as an all Qaeda recruiter I'd like to meet up with you for reading on the conversation that first conversation was not recorded FBI agents claim they ran out of batteries the FBI says Yousef asked Mama what he wanted to do and when he didn't answer gave him some choices he could pray study send money overseas martyr himself or become operational mama chose operational and when you say if asked what that meant Mohamed said he was interested in a car bombing so all of this is alleged by the FBI because we have no tape to corroborate what they're saying that's right they didn't record it and not only that the agent who wrote the report about it destroyed his nets but we do have grainy video recordings of the next meeting few certain Mohammad are sitting on the floor of a hotel room opening bags of takeout food camera seems to be on a desk on the other side of the room for the audio is not great the heat the setup of this meeting is that Yousef and Mohammed need to convince the third guy in the room is also an undercover agent to give an explosives into the future is on the streets and Mama describes a dreamy had where he was leading eleven thousand fighters to conquer Jerusalem the costs in the news made the all the crazies in the fifteen minute in the conversation turns from dreams to reality hope you all know Mohammed asked for a truck with explosives after that the FBI takes over to give Muhammad homework yes to rent a storage shed by some double A batteries and a toggle switch at Radio Shack but FBI agents who get the van and to build a fake bomb in and out of plywood and plastic barrels its agents who drive and park that and the Christmas tree lighting with Muhammad in the passenger seat even tell Muhammad the phone number to dial one that supposed to detonate a bomb just before his arrest in the but in the meetings leading up to that day over and over the undercover agents give Muhammad what they called outs the government said these were opportunities for Muhammad to back out that show in choosing violence instead Muhammad's attorneys said these were phony choices that show in trying to live up to expectations and his adolescent dreams when a most dramatic outs happens in that first meeting after Mohamed casually suggests himself up in the van Ahmed is still sitting on the floor the ease and he keeps looking down at his food detox while use of towers over him gesturing with his hands the the uh the the is the look me in the six hours in the US to post this video played a critical role in Muhammad's trial I talked with her Alicia Thompson and she was on the fence until she re watched it yet that's what made me finally decide to say he was guilty and was it about that clip that help to make that decision be cuz he sae said he was thinking about it since he was fifteen he's been thinking about and he acted on it and what do you think it is to kill Americans After a thirteen day they found him attempted use in less The Who the question I still have is knowing that all of this make people safer that depends on what you think Muhammad would have done without the FBI leading him along but it also depends on what you think those FBI agents could have done that something former agent Mike German pointed out to me that's the flipside of this that these undercover operations are very high resource investigations so this means you're not doing something else and there's plenty of crime out there that the government shouldn't be in that position of inventing it and how often does that happen like how often do we put resources into taking somebody who's susceptible but not actually doing anything and put them away well a lot more often if you're Muslim in our domestic terrorism database nearly half of those cases involve stings compared to twelve percent of right wing cases also prosecutors charged Mohammed with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction that the terrorism charge and they added to that terrorism sentencing enhancement terrorism charges bring with them substantially higher penalties longer sentences and yet harsher terms that's reporter David and I were to get in for good reason you know the cause greater ordinary underlying crimes Monett got thirty years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release when he gets out of prison I'll have to ask a probation officer before he uses a computer because it charges and sentences and prosecutions are very common among us whereas with the lottery News Stream is said and there's a line I think there's a lot of wrist slapping that goes on in fact prison terms for rightwing terrorists are less than half as long as sentences for terrorists to say they're acting in the name of Islam case in point something that happened the night after Mohammed's arrest the This morning responded to an arson fire at a mosque in Corvallis around two fifteen this morning it happened at the salmonella in what seemed to be retaliation for the Christmas tree bomb plot someone had broken a window and started a fire in the Corvallis mosque where Mohammed sometimes prayed ok so what happened with the Christmas tree bomb plot was just that it was a plot that never actually turned into a terrorist attack but what happened here this mosque that a terrorist attack right absolutely it's ideological violence to intimidate a group by the F B I's definition that's terrorism but it wasn't treated like tears the the the the hell is that she did that part of the story when we come back the This is revealed in the Center for investigative reporting in PR X the one and the listeners Scott fan here I build news applications here to reveal the head of this show I teamed up with the investigative Fund to help visualize the database we mentioned earlier it contains more than two hundred domestic terror events between two thousand eight and two thousand and sixteen some incidents you might have missed include a failed bomb attack at a regional airport in Wichita Kansas or the story of Warren Gator Taylor a wheelchair bound anti government zealot who took hostages at a post office in Virginia but so check it out head over to reveal new study or to slash domestic again that's where you lose the door to slash domestic the from the Center for reporting this the before the break we heard about back to back terrorist incidents in Oregon in an FBI sting operation nineteen year old Somali Osman Mahmud got thirty years in prison for trying to set off in the night after the bomb plot it was an arson at Muhammad's mosque reveals standout Cory has been looking into the arsonist or a fair trial so who did what happened to well he was a white Christian twenty four year old named Cody Seth Crawford it took six years be finally pleaded no contest last year David and I were to the investigative Fund was in the courtroom for the sentencing and it was really strikingly different from what you see in typical terrorism case he says even though Cody insisted he was innocent and didn't show any remorse the judge was smiling at him as she imposed her verdict five years probation no prison time so homie gets prison time for fake bomb but Cody got no prison time for real fire has that happen it fits with a larger pattern we know from that domestic terrorism database we put together with the investigative Fund prison terms for terrorists to target Muslims tend to be about half as long as for terrorists targeting the general public in this arson case I called the prosecutor and he told me Cody got off so lightly because at the time of the sentence saying he was in Oregon State Hospital a mental hospital where one floor the Cuckoo's nest was found and the what happened was after the arson Cody had a series of episodes involving alcohol and a psychiatrist diagnosed as brief reactive psychosis one found at a gas station ranting at the customers that was a Christian warrior and telling a police officer you're going to burn in hell like the other Muslims the one that landed him in the mental hospital started at his mom's house the he videotaped himself holding up a giant wrench in front of a little upright piano prayer and smashing it down the video he shot later that night he delivers a monologue in his mom's backyard with shards of the piano burning bonfire behind and I did very well but I did not wear the stupid fucking Islamic center not those Islamic Center Mother Tucker's single burn in hell Tricare because I didn't do shit to them while the piano burned his mom called the police officer Casey Gibson was the first on the scene he got to the door and was able to just lock the door as I was on the door handle and he yelled from inside the house the heat again he was going to shoot me so Casey pulls out his gun and at this point Officer Todd Fink shows up you see Koh he will even out the window and he's got a flashlight in one he brings his other hand up in what looked to me like a shooting position so I dropped to my knees behind the engine block of my police car and at that point I realize you have a gun in Sandy's get a sling shot both officers said Cody came very close to being shot that night Cody was ultimately charged with unlawful a weapon a felony and found guilty except for insanity which is how he landed a mental hospital he's been there nearly two years he was finally sentenced for the Masters The The The The The The The The The wanted to talk to most afar because the prosecution memo about the lenient sentence name one other factor in addition to Cody is mental illness it said they picked the verdict with great deference to the leaders of the mosque thus far is one of those leaders so I wonder what role he had in that sense the most part comes out of the mosque wearing a khaki fast with too many pockets he's got a trim white beard and little round glasses looks like a grandfather and I to the fire he showed up at three am it was still burning I so that it's in black and quiet inside and that we do this window it's why you broke T Mo's afar said the prosecution kept the mosque leaders informed but as far as consulting them about the sentence telling them we're not going to seek to put him in prison not nano did it and hated it has one of the things I said from that summer should do whatever you want to feel that's right we accepted we are with you I would say that people do in the Woodford that's not fair between what's happened with Mohamed Mahmud and what's happened to him then i told most of our something he didn't know a few months after Cody was sentenced to the mosque arson medical panel at the mental hospital decided he didn't have bipolar disorder after all they diagnosed him with personality disorder and substance abuse disorder and the way they interpret the law could hold them for that so they released him even though they concluded there was evidence he was substantially dangerous and the fact that they said that he is dangerous and yet I don't think they did good job if his advantages and let him free I don't think that's right the the age of straight from talking in those afar at the mosque to meeting Cody outside a Walmart the is wired with a crane red beard and a tie dye sweatshirt and from the moment I need and he's talking nonstop about videos he's made visiting his mom in hospital he tells me all about the homemade by the road battery six Volt as the Yes the other components are Chinese it takes more than a day before I can sit him down in a quiet place and ask me about the things I want to talk about the mosque arson which he still denies starting despite DNA evidence and what he said about Muslims during his psychotic episodes may call you saying watch out for your red eyes that saying if you're standing front of Seoul as One flew over Cuckoo's nest are you saying though saying I acted crazy I want a middle ground where I got connected I didn't have to do a lotta years in prison I didn't have to pay any money right and have decided that I consider what happened in my case a total victory for me I mean it does seem like you are out I liked the federal government's ass in court either way you look at it with what I started with whether I did or not but later I press him on the details police say they talk to your sister and she had said that your sister your mother essay like they just admit that I actually am a fucking nutcase and I go back on Social Security in the leech on society or to pick myself up by the bootstraps tell everybody lied to my teeth look cool like Jack Nicholson maybe people think I'm guilty anyway is much more employee able to be thought of as a crook and liar then as bipolar crazy at boutique on my take is that it's really hard to tell what Cody actually believes versus what he wants you to think evil if you know because one minute I'd be talking to him and he'd say Muslims are amazing people I have friends that are Muslim and then the next minute he'd say something like this is no other religion that just calls for your death and are so many different circumstances you say you aren't on their side since he was released from the mental hospital he hasn't done anything like the mosque arson but he did drunkenly drive over a mailbox and fence and flee the police and he just pleaded guilty to a new crime of driving with a suspended license after wrecking his mom's car he couldn't put in jail for violating the terms of his probation for the mosque arson but so far that hasn't happened he's getting a lot of second chances meanwhile for the Christmas tree plot Mohammed Mahmoud is in a medium security federal prison yeah and Cody is very conscious of how their two cases are intertwined first he said he didn't think Muhammad should ever get out of prison but then he also said this there is never a mental health stuff mixed in the Mama K's I know that there has to be there because they can be that angry upset knowing everybody unless they're deeply deeply disturbed if anything there should've been a role reversal on polished gonna go to the hospital and got help the almond is projected to get out of prison thirty seven when he'll be forty that was reveals was the difference in how the government sees cases like hers as Crawford's and Muhammad has been the movements is deeper than just presents dozens of FBI agents work to set up the harm it can defeat bombing but by putting so many resources into sting operations like that is the enforcement missing the threat from right wing extremists even when it's right there on the arrest may purge non compliant to erosion starting people that story next on reveal the the the the J listeners by Duncan here I am indeed a reporter ever be on the beach one day I send out the weekly reveal newsletter it's got a bunch of cool stuff interviews with reporters feedback from our readers and listeners and scenes from producers in the field sometimes we'll even publish a full investigation therefore it appears anywhere else signing up is easy just head over to review muse dot org slash newsletter again that's review muse dot org slash newsletter banks from the Center for investigative reporting in PR X This is revealed a mallet the the we're looking at domestic terrorism with the nonprofit newsroom to investigate if they found the federal government is focusing almost all of its resources on terrorists who claim they're fighting in the name of Islam hosts the spots have been foiled but when it comes to right wing chairs authorities have been a success for most of those plots have been carried out